What the Hell Happened?
I need to try and get all of this down on paper, if even virtual in nature, or I risk having it all evaporate into the ether of my memory. It is vitally important that I get all of this out of my system as well, because I am still a little uncertain I understand how to cope with the feelings it created as an echo. Human nature seems to dictate that taking a step back and viewing events with an honest, third person, approach is near to impossible. I will try to be as sincere as I can in my descriptions, but I suppose the truth always has three sides at a minimum. This account of events will grow over time.
It was a chance meeting, really. My annual Christmas Party was taking place that evening and I was out of the office at 4PM with time to burn. I had broken my leg earlier in the year and was managing my own rehabilitation by getting myself into traversing at one of the local rock climbing gyms. It was fun, innocuous and allowed me to regain strength and agility in my ankle. The break had been to both bones in my lower leg and, while able to bear weight, had rendered my ankle useless for about 6 weeks.
My climbing shoes were crap. They were some wonky Mad Rock shoes that were not correctly fitted and were smooshing my toes. So, I made a few calls and discovered that a shop on the East side of town had some nifty shoes that might be a better fit. To burn time prior to the holiday festivities I drove over to the shop and drifted in the shoe department. I did not know what I was looking at on the wall, but I knew enough to speak intelligently and ask a few of the correct questions. She (we'll call her B) was an avid rock climber and we hit it off right away. B was honest with me about what might suit my needs, and excited to meet someone with an interest in her passion for rock climbing. Nothing they had would work well for my needs, but I gave B my contact info as I was excited to meet someone from whom I could learn about rock climbing.
I am not a believer in love at first sight, but B later told me that she went home that night and consulted friends on how to build a relationship with the guy she met in the shoe department at work. She had, in her words, "met the man she was going to marry" that evening and wanted to make the most of it. Obviously. I went to the holiday party thinking I had met someone with whom I could go rock climbing, and she was cute so that only made the situation better. The rest, as they say, is history.
This history also includes B enlisting a friend to inquire about my nature around the rock gym and perform some sneaky intel that basically resulted in asking me what I knew, and thought, about my own character. I was, of course, quite keen on knowing me and had nothing but good things to say. B was an avid reader of history books, an engineer with exception math skills and an ability to provide highly detailed descriptions of all her climbing exploits. Her memory was amazing, as was her ability to comprehend and explain complex mechanical systems. She was also really cute.
We were married in a small Episcopal church with a small collection of close friends. It suited us perfectly and our Honeymoon was in Salzburg, Austria. It was awesome, and we traveled well together. Things had clicked, obviously, and the future looked incredibly bright. We had many of the same goals and shared interests without a need to be constantly involved in each other's activities. B had a passion for rock climbing, and I had a passion for bicycling. I rode constantly, raced and commuted by bike. B climbed every chance she had and was very talented.
B was an engineer by trade and training and worked in a manufacturing facility. Everyone loved her, she had an awesome personality and sense of humor. She was also super sharp, witty and capable of fixing complex mechanical processes that I cannot even hope to fully understand. We were both interested in each other's activities and enjoyed sharing our experience and knowledge. She never judged me, never questioned what I enjoyed doing and was full of pure support and encouragement. I tried to be that person for her as well, and did a decent job of it. I failed at times, certainly, but did my best to applaud and encourage all of her interests, activities and decisions.
The exact dates are difficult to track in my memory, but starting somewhere in 2009 B started to have trouble. Work was driving her into the ground and actually landed her in the hospital. She was working nights and very long hours, which lead to her not getting enough rest/sleep. This in turn lead to her body not reacting properly during her periods, and she developed abnormal cells on her uterus. Abnormal cells equate to cancer, and she had a procedure to cauterize the cells and remove them. B continued to not get enough rest/sleep, and went back to work a bit too rapidly. This resulted in a relapse, bleeding and other issues including performing the procedure a second time. At that point we agreed she needed to change her work environment and B moved from the production floor to the office. This did not improve her overall situation though, and B continued to work very long hours in a high-stress environment. Again, this lead to health issues and another trip to the hospital. We agreed that B needed to seek new employment.
Moving from dual income to single income plus a little money put a lot of stress on me. I reacted to this stress poorly. B had landed a new position working with a friend in a physical yet fun environment. Technically, she worked at a zoo but she would call it something else entirely and scold me for calling it a zoo. But this is my story, so it was a zoo. B flourished at the zoo and enjoyed her work immensely. It paid 25% of what she made previously so the bulk of the bills (rent, two car payments, food, etc) fell on me to cover. I restructured our finances and made it work.
At some point in 2009/2010 B began to experience a series of unfortunate situations such as injuries and difficult family events. To you and me these would have been bad luck and blown off as such, but for B the effects were compound. Each time she had worked hard to build her climbing strength, and then been beset with injury not as a result of climbing. It was a vicious cycle that eroded her self-confidence more than I realized. Couple this with family emergencies and other events and the impact on her confidence was devastating. I did my best to offer support and encouragement, but I am far from perfect and made many mistakes. My own stress levels were elevated by the financial situation, and the constant doctor visits and other events were hammering on me as well. We had reached the point that B could not cover her bills or debts as her work had slowed and hours were not available. I was covering everything and trying to provide her with an allowance, so to speak, but letting B manage her own finances with the money I was supplying. This allowed her to remain in control of her life and, I hoped, help build up some confidence. Unfortunately, it did not work as planned.
What I did not realize was that B was already suffering greatly from what was soon to become a much larger problem. This suffering had resulted in a change to her attitude from extreme responsibility and open communication, to a closed off perspective and no desire to deal with said bills and expenses. Instead, she had been ignoring everything for several months without telling me. This became evident in April and we were placed in a position of needing cash, and a fair amount of it, rapidly. While I am actually happy that my reaction was controlled and supportive, B was crushed that she had put us in that position and had to surprise me with the unfortunate news. I had a resource and we managed to handle things without incurring too much in the way of penalties. Unfortunately, the damage was done and the next day everything changed.
April 16th, 2010
B had already been taking medication to help her cope with increased anxiety, but I was not familiar with the dosage, frequency or necessity. Upon arriving home from work that evening I could not find B. Normally, she would reading or hanging out waiting for me to get home. I was always welcomed with a big hug, a kiss and a conversation about our respective days. That night, I arrived home to ... emptiness.
Eventually, I found B laying squished under the bed. She was basically curled up in the corner, crying, shaking and she was sucking her thumb. I could not get her to talk, she was impossible to console and her panic attacks induced by extreme anxiety were stopping me from doing anything but sitting next to her silently. Eventually, and this took hours, she was able to communicate.
Her speech patterns had changed entirely, and something was very wrong. It was nearly impossible for me to comprehend what was happening. Over the next couple of days we located a psychiatrist local to our residence and she was able to get there by bicycle as driving was out of the question. I had to work, and she had a sense of pride in getting herself to the doctor. What I did not realize at the time was that B had developed two things that would result in her becoming extremely over-medicated.
These two things were 1) an extreme sense of drama when describing how she felt, and 2) a child-like voice she used only when speaking with doctors. The combination of these two factors lead to a rapid escalation of her medication, and that lead to a rapid crippling of her personality. Damage had already been done to her ability to operate on a daily basis, but adding as many as half a dozen medications did not improve her situation. She improved enough to begin driving and had taken a road trip to visit a friend and provide me with a break from the situation. This was a good plan at the time, but something happened and her memory went to total crap. At one point, she went to brush her teeth. Upon finishing brushing her teeth she returned to the bedroom, and forgot that she had brushed her teeth. So, she would recall that she needed to brush her teeth and returned to the bathroom. B brushed her teeth over a dozen times before someone from the family stopped her from continuing. She degraded quickly and eventually her mother flew in to driver B home.
2010 and beyond
At this point everything really starts to run together. B went downhill quickly and, unfortunately, her doses and varieties of medication increased. B's memory degraded to the point that I needed to call her from work to wake her up, help her identify the correct pill case (marked Morning, Afternoon and Evening as well as by day of the week) and administer herself with the proper medication. When that process went wrong, and it did, I was faced with calming her down from a panic attack, determining what she had taken by accident and calculating what needed to be changed for her next dosage. We were never in danger of an overdose, but it was still tricky to manage and not without stress.
Her condition also meant that B slept 16-18 hours per day. She needed complete quiet, darkness and little to no physical contact. This meant that she isolated herself in the bedroom with earplugs, an eye mask and a pacifier when not sucking her thumb. I could not hug her, kiss her or provide comfort without sending her into a panic attack. Aside from making her meals, she would not eat unless food was prepared and she was reminded, I never actually saw B. This went on for many months, and eventually stretched into years. There were other quirks that emerged from the situation. B got into a pattern of only eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch for several months. She sucked her thumb, or a pacifier, for over a year and also began nesting.
The nesting thing is difficult to describe, but she essentially created a collection of everything she would need for several days around the Ikea chair. There she would sit, surrounded by all manner of medication, blankets, pillows, Golden Books, ear plugs, cereal boxes and other items. Everything was in reach, and she would not move from that spot for days aside from a trip to the bathroom. She stopped bathing, would not brush her teeth and would barely talk. We had gone from a marriage to a non-communicative cohabitation. She left the house for psychiatrist appointments and talk therapy several times a week. We attended therapy together, and this is where I began to understand the over-medication and 'doctor voice'.
Over-medication was sorted by changing to a new psychiatrist, but her dramatic description of her feelings lead to another round of over-medication. Doctor Voice was a way that she communicated only with doctors. The voice was child-like, and very dramatic. It was very disturbing, and took a lot of work to change. Eventually her mother and I broke her of the habit, but I do not honestly know how. Her ability to self-sustain and get around town to appointments improved over time. Our first round over over-medication was purged from her system, along with more than a dozen different forms of daily medication. That change allowed her to begin talking again, and eventually lead to an ability to read. Prior to that, neither was possible.
Our conversations had been slowed to the point that a few sentences required up to an hour of concentrated effort for her and patient encouragement on my part. Her reading ability was gone, and her ability to write was slowly returning along with balance. It was brutal. She had been so capable and so independent, and was now reduced to the mental capacity of a child. Where she had always excelled, she was now incapable. Her spirit remained strong, by and large, but diminished by all the set backs. I was still distanced from her physically.
She slept on the couch and I in the bed, I still could not give her a hug and could not even hold her hand. Her refusal to bathe continued, and would occur once weekly at best. I did my best to improve her diet, but even that was minimal and did nothing to improve her strength. She was always exhausted by the constant panic attacks and anxiety, and for well over a year bounced back and forth between Pepto-Bismol and a diuretic because her system was unable to cope. It was one extreme to the next. Somewhere in all of this we had moved to the outskirts of Dallas.
Our new apartment had no shared walls, overlooked a field and was relatively quiet. This move had occurred in an effort to create a quieter environment for B to heal, and improve her chances of getting back into society. Over time, and by that I mean many months, B was able to eliminate some of the ticks and nuances, but certainly not all of them and by no means was it a rapid transition. Bathing regularly was still out of the question, but use of the pacifier diminished. Ear plugs were still a necessity, but we had managed to rebuild her self-confidence enough that the nesting stopped. She still slept 16 hours a day, but I was able to hold her hand, if only for brief periods. Cuddling was still out, but hugs were back in if limited to brief and small quantities.
Over time B continued to improve and eventually she began reading again. The complexity of books increased to Teen Drama, and she really enjoyed the Hunger Games series. Unfortunately, her memory was still very poor and she was unable to recall the preceding paragraph she had just read, or references to character names that were not routine. Even after reading the same book dozens of times, it was a fresh experience for her nearly every time she picked up the book. Thankfully, B was able to drive and get around on her own. Her diet was still crap, but she was not entirely dependent on me. This helped me retain my own sanity, but our marriage never really returned to a partnership.
In later 2012 an opportunity arose with my employer that would allow us to relocate to Colorado. This had been a vacation destination for us for several years and the ability to move to a quieter, slower environment was welcome. The downside was a very short time line to complete the move. We intentionally sent B off on a climbing trip, thankfully she had begun rock climbing again with very brief bursts of energy, and I handled everything for the relocation along with my regular work.
This was not easy, and included divesting quite a few possessions on eBay, along with planning the relocation, packing everything and managing the move in 45 days as required by my employer and the timing of our lease expiration. I unpacked and setup the new cabin in Colorado and made everything as perfect as possible so that her own transition would be as free from stress as possible. Unfortunately, all of this had happened in a way that only added to my own stress levels.
After nearly a month, B moved into the new cabin in Colorado. The idea was that the new environment would be better for her to heal and she could concentrate on rock climbing, hiking and the general peace of the outdoors as a means of healing. This did not go as planned, and B actually became more and more reclusive as well as selfish. After only a couple of months it was clear she no longer wanted to help me with day to day tasks and she became more and more dependent on me to handle everything around the house. Cooking, laundry, cleaning, etc fell on me to handle because she was always, “too tired to stand-up” or “had a headache” and needed to sit on the couch and watch television. Interspersed with having no energy, B would go climbing on occasion or, at one point, spend an entire day helping a local roof his house.
While I was happy that B was getting out and being active, it also drove home a point that she had the energy and capability only when she wanted it. Outside of those times, she spent her days on the couch watching Netflix or needing complete quiet and no interaction with me. She refused to go anywhere with me, even for a drive through the beautiful countryside. She made frequent trips to downtown on her own, but would always return with armfuls of cotton candy, rock candy and root beer. I am fairly certain she sustained herself on sweets for a solid month. This resulted in me being sequestered to my office, and never really getting away from work or spending time with my wife.
I confronted B and essentially demanded that she assist more around the house and with daily routines, or she needed to leave. Her father had come into town on a poorly planned vacation that resulted in him sleeping in our storage room for a week, and I had enough. At this point I cracked and needed time for myself. I gave B an ultimatum of becoming a prtner in our marriage and taking on additional responsibilities around the house, including bathing on a regular basis, or leaving. She moved back to her parent's house -in another State- for several months.
B returned “home” for a week with her parents on vacation. We discussed the situation and, as a couple, decided we both needed to move on with our separate lives. She left with the bulk of her belongings, but still with quite a bit in the cabin. I moved onward, but awkwardly.
...details to be added...